“We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” A Devotion on Psalm 23:4

Valley“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4 KJV

The “shadow of death” is a colloquial saying in Hebrew meaning “mortal peril.” For many people in our world who are in mortal peril “the shadow of death” is literal. We might think of the people of Syria, or refugees in leaky boats, or young men in gangs. Or we might think of people we know who are dying. They live in “the shadow of death.”

For most of us, though, “the shadow of death” is an abstraction. Even so, we need to remember that in the New Testament death is never merely death at the end of life. It is that, but it is more than that.

More often in the New Testament “death” means a power that insinuates itself into our living of these days, robbing us of the fullness of life that God wants for us.

If we then live in “the shadow of death” the question arises, “How do we follow Jesus in such a time as this?”  Often our real enemy isn’t death so much as it is fear. Psalm 23 tells us we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear only because God goes with us.

There is a powerful Gospel song by Moses Hogan called, “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace.” Its words echo Psalm 23: “We shall walk through the valley in peace. There will be no sorrow there. There will be no dying there.” Why? “If Jesus himself shall be our leader, we shall walk through the valley in peace.”

Prayer: We live in a time of mortal peril, O God. Help us walk through the valley unafraid, with Jesus as our Leader. Amen.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for April 20 , 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. There are several good recordings of “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” on-line. Here are two I like, very different, one by Cantus and Chanticleer and the other by the Chor a cappella Konzertmitschnitt in June 2008 at Lengenfeld, St. Aegidius-Kirche, Germany. My own Berkshire Lyric Chorus really rocks this one, but sadly, no recording of it exists. Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2003. Delphi, Greece.)


“SHARE!” A Devotion on Acts 2:44-45

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”—Acts 2:44-45

My son and daughter were born 20 months apart and so played together as children. Before I was a parent I imagined that the solution to sibling competition over toys was to give them each the same one. So, for example, if you gave one of them a colorful ball, you would also give the other one an identical ball. As reasonable as this sounds it didn’t work. Apparently there is something highly acquisitive hardwired into the human condition. It turns out that both children wanted both balls. I’m tempted to reference a certain Christian doctrine here, but I’ll hold back. Continue reading

“He knew where he was going!” A Devotion for Palm Sunday

“They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” —Mark 10:32-34 Continue reading

“Living Water and Leaky Containers” A Devotion on Jeremiah 2:13

“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”—Jeremiah 2:13

When you live in the desert you know the difference between green and brown, between wet and dry. In the parched lands from which we get our Bible water was not only a precious resource, but also an important metaphor for life itself. Continue reading

“Down to Earth” A Sermon on John 13:1-17

I started my ministry 43 years ago in two small congregations in two adjacent tiny towns in Maine about 9 miles apart. When I lived in Maine just about the nicest compliment you could give someone was to say they were “down to earth.” It meant that they weren’t puffed up about their own importance. They were reliable, sensible, responsible, unpretentious and humble. Continue reading

Gabriel J. Fackre (1926-2018) A Remembrance

I head down to Cape Cod this weekend to mourn the death and celebrate the life of my friend Gabe Fackre. Gabe was very important to my life. I knew him first as my seminary teacher, then my mentor, later a faithful colleague and a life-long friend. Most of all he encouraged me again and again in my ministry. Continue reading

“Did God Say?” A Devotion on Genesis 3:1

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1 Continue reading